John Joseph Enneking (1841-1916), American
Setting Sunlight on a Hilltop, 1890
oil on board, 10 in. x 14 in.
(framed dimensions: 16 in. x 20 in.)
Signed lower right: “Enneking 90”
Inscribed verso: “JJ Enneking estate, Administrators Florance E. Long, Grace Edward, JJ Eliot Enneking”
Bears an "L" stamp on reverse which likely refers to painting being in the Florance Long third of the Enneking estate.
This work is a very nice example of Mr. Enneking’s mature impressionist landscape paintings. On display is his bravura brushwork, his use of color, his interest in the effect of diminishing late day light on the landscape, and his love of nature. The greens of the foreground yield to shadowy umbers and siennas as the viewer's eyes ascend to the dramatic oranges and pinks of the illuminated crest of the hill, where perhaps the foliage has begun to turn at a higher elevation. This is set in relief by the darker blues and purples of the skies beyond; the slightly ominous darker hues in the upper right corner hint at a brewing late day rainstorm. The paint surface is pleasing throughout – broader brushstrokes in the fore and middle grounds, tighter and more impastoed paint at the hilltop. The paint in the sky is an array of diagonal bristle brush strokes. The artist seems to have even used the back end of his brush to quickly incise a few lines in the paint in order to delineate the crest of the hill to his liking. A man who, at 49, was in complete control of his craft.
This painting is not titled by the artist and the location cannot be known for certain. Perhaps early autumn in the White Mountains or Maine or closer to home in the Blue Hills or Hyde Park.
An exhibition of Enneking's landscapes was held in 1911 at the Walter Kimball & Co, gallery in Boston. One of the paintings in that exhibit was described by the Boston Globe's A.J. Philpott and his words seem apropos to this painting:
"Then comes a picture which will not attract the casual visitor, but which will hold the connoisseur, because it is so well done. It is called 'Hillside', a picture rich and wonderful in the way that depth, atmosphere and rugged topographical strength are painted into the twilight shadow, over which flames a bit of clouded sunset."
John Enneking was born in Ohio in 1841, was orphaned at 16, and went to live with his aunt and uncle in Cincinnati, where he first took art lessons at St. Mary’s College. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War and was wounded and taken captive. Later discharged, by 1868 Enneking had settled in Boston. After studying industrial drawing and lithography, and a stint as a tinsmith, in 1872 he set off for Europe to further study painting. He studied in Munich with Adolph-Henrich Lier and Eduard Schleich and in Paris with Leon Bonnat and Charles Daubigny. Enneking became acquainted with and painted alongside such artists as Monticelli, Millet, Corot, Renoir, Manet, Pissarro and Monet. In fact, the Enneking family often visited with Claude Monet and his wife and son, Camille and Jean. He returned to Boston in 1876, establishing a studio next to Childe Hassam and George Fuller. After successful one man shows in Boston and Philadelphia in 1878, Enneking returned to Paris and thence to Holland to paint. The painter utilized elements of both the Barbizon and Impressionist schools in his work and is renowned for his New England landscapes, capturing the natural beauty of the region in all seasons, often at sunset but also in bright sunshine and dramatic cloudy weather.
In his personal life, John Enneking married Mary Eliot and eventually had 4 children – three girls: Florence, Emily and Grace and one son John Eliot Enneking, who would also become a well-known New England painter. The Ennekings built a home in Hyde Park, Massachusetts (still standing) and a summer home in North Newry, Maine, not far from the White Mountains where enjoyed to paint. He also liked to get away to the south to Duxbury or to Cape Cod. Enneking’s love for nature led him to be elected Park Commissioner of Hyde Park. He secured for Boston the Fenway and the Boston Park System. He also procured for a park his favorite painting place, Stony Brook. In 1967 the Parkway through Stony Brook was renamed the Enneking Parkway.
He was a member of the Twentieth Century Club, Pudding Stone Club, Hyde Park Historical Society, Boston Art Club, Paint and Clay Club of Boston, Boston Guild of Artists and the New Haven Paint and Clay Club. Interestingly, he turned down an offer to join the group of American Impressionists known as The Ten.
Enneking exhibited at Williams & Everett Gallery, Boston, The Boston Art Club, Mass. Charitable Mechanics’ Association Boston, National Academy of Design, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Paris Expo 1900, Pan-American Expo Buffalo 1901, Art Institute of Chicago, Corcoran Gallery, Pan-Pacific Expo San Francisco 1915, Vose Gallery Boston, World’s Fair 1904 and the New Haven Paint and Clay Club.
His work is represented in many museums and private collections.
The painting is in excellent condition. The frame is a modern gilt Arts and Crafts style with handsome moldings and incised details along the sides. The frame is in very good condition with minor scattered abrasions.
John J. Enneking painting, Hillside at Twilight, 1890